The Day That Henry Ford Launched Cadillac

The Day That Henry Ford Launched Cadillac

In August of 1902, William Murphy and Lemuel Bowen, the men with the money that were backing Henry Ford’s second automotive manufacturing endeavor, had reached their limits. They were exasperated. Rather than produce a vehicle that could be sold, Ford was focused mostly on experimentation, and the building of racing cars to test those experiments. Murphy and Bowen were wanting a return on investment.

Digital Camera

Henry Leland had learned the art of precision machining while working as an apprentice for Samuel Colt, the firearms manufacturer. He perfected his skills with a variety of endeavors before applying them to automotive applications. In the summer of 1901, he contracted with Ransom E Olds of Olds Motor Works to produce an advanced new engine for the 1902 Oldsmobile. That fledgling partnership came to an abrupt end when a devastating fire at the Olds Motor Works almost destroyed the company.

The Dawn of Cadillac

Leland was well know in the burgeoning automotive manufacturing industry in Detroit. After the fire at Olds, Murphy and Bowen retained Leland as a consultant as they needed an evaluation of the manufacturing facility and equipment. Their plan was to ascertain a value of the company, and sell it to recoup a portion of their investment. Leland proposed a different direction; keep the company and use the engine he had designed for Olds to jump start production.

Ford was incensed. He made the directors an ultimatum; dismiss Leland or pay him $900 and remove his name from the company immediately. The directors chose the latter and the rest, as they say, is history.

The company was reorganized and named after the founder of Fort Detroit, the French explorer La Sieur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. On October 17th, 1902, the first Cadillac was taken for a test drive.

The links between Henry Ford and Cadillac were not an unusual story during the infancy of the American auto industry. As an example, the driver who took that first Cadillac for a spin was Alanson P. Brush. In 1907, Brush launched his own automotive company. Shortly after this endeavor failed in 1911, he joined General Motors as a consulting engineer. In this position he was responsible for development of the Oakland line.

The remnants of the Brush Runabout Company were sold by Frank Briscoe, the primary financial backer of the endeavor, to Benjamin Briscoe, his brother, who was launching the United States Motor Company to compete directly with GM. Benjamin Briscoe was the initial money man behind David Buick, and partner in Jonathan Maxwell’s Maxwell-Briscoe Company. Maxwell had launched his automotive career with Olds Motor Works.

With the collapse of United States Motor Company, Maxwell-Briscoe was reorganized as Maxwell. In 1924, Walter Chrysler acquired control of Maxwell and the Chrysler was born.

Leland would stay with Cadillac after its acquisition by General Motors. At the advent of WWII he started a company to manufacture aircraft engines. This company would undergo a rather dramatic transition soon after and begin producing automobiles under the Lincoln name. When that company slipped into receivership, it was acquired by Henry Ford who promptly placed his son, Edsel, at the helm.

The infancy of the American auto industry was a wild swashbuckling battle of tycoons, shysters, and daring entrepreneurs. It was a time of dramatic societal upheaval where fortunes were made and lost at dizzying speed. It was an amazing time, an era when a man like Henry Ford could loose two companies, build a third, and in the process launch not one but two automotive dynasties.

No Hill Too Steep, No Sand Too Deep

No Hill Too Steep, No Sand Too Deep

Jackson, Michigan, is linked to a number of fascinating, or dubious (dependent on perspective) historic incidents. Did you know that
the first official meeting of a political group calling themselves Republican was held in Jackson on July 6, 1854? Did you know that the first Michigan prison opened in this city in 1838, and that by the mid 1880’s it was the largest walled prison in the world?

The historic state prison in Jackson, Michigan. Photo copyright Jim Hinckley’s America

Here is another little historic tidbit. The Jackson Corset Co. established in 1884 was the largest manufacturer of corsets in the United States by the mid 1890’s.

It is the city’s automotive history that is automotive history that is is the the subject of today’s post. There was a brief moment during the infancy of the automotive industry when Jackson gave Detroit a run for the title of Motor City. Between 1899 and the onset of the Great Depression more than 20 manufacturers operated in the city, and in addition there were numerous companies that produced automotive or industrial components.

Christmas Ghosts

Christmas Ghosts

Christmas is a time for reflection, for memories. It is, as Charles Dickens so

eloquently wrote of it, a season for ghosts of the past, present, and future. As I age, the Christmas season takes on a bittersweet tone. There are reflections on childhood, on family, on friends, on blessings, and on what the future may hold.

It is the day before Christmas and that sense of bittersweet reflection is heavy. Yesterday, for the first time in more than a year, my dearest friend and I had an opportunity to visit with four of our grandchildren. Ice cream and time spent with them in the park are a memory that will enhance Christmases to come.

Thoughts of those that have passed tinge the holiday with a bit of darkness. Likewise with a hint of apprehension about the year to come.

To each and everyone of you, I hope that this holiday season is a time of memories made with family and friends. And here is to a new year filed with promise. May it be filled with adventures shared with friends.

Shared Adventures Are Memorable Adventures

Shared Adventures Are Memorable Adventures

Frogs & Tap Dancing Shoes 

With each passing day I feel the stress building. There is a sense that I have walked in during the middle of a French movie with Japanese subtitles and there will be a test in the morning. I can’t help but think that is how Mr. Reeves felt when he debuted the Octauto as the future of automotive technology. 

This weeks projects included final edit for a new book, making a valiant attempt to learn how to operate a new Mevo camera system that was purchased through the crowdfunding initiative on Patreon to enhance the weekly Facebook live programs, trying to get the podcast off the ground, linking all of the various projects with a YouTube channel and in my spare time, working on the projects that provide income. 

The podcast has been an off again on again project for several years. It was postponed after several false starts resultant of outdated equipment that is in need of update or upgrade (laptop is about 8 years old, IPad is about 5 years of age). There was also a need to dramatically fix the office as it hasn’t been touched in a decade. 

And now attentions turn toward integrating the podcast into the blog. Check out the new podcast series, 10 Minutes With Jim, and share your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. In a nut shell the program is an up close and personal encounter with me – rants, reviews, a bit of my signature humor, and on occasion some very interesting people.